North Carolina offers pristine beaches, striking mountains, waterfalls, and much more. Nature and landscape photographers can find plenty to love here. On this page you’ll find information on some of the most noteworthy locations in North Carolina for photographing. The interactive map below shows the location of each spot mentioned on this page.
This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beautiful in all seasons, and is a favorite of many landscape photographers. There are plenty of trails and great photos waiting to be captured. The park lies in both North Carolina and Tennessee, and here we will look at some of the noteworthy spots in the North Carolina section of the park. For a detailed look at the park please see our Photography Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
While Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides plenty of stunning mountain vistas, the creeks and rivers that flow through the park are equally beautiful. Explore Big Creek on the Big Creek Trail, or take the more intense 16-mile Big Creek Loop.
Mouse Creek Falls
Mouse Creek Falls can be reached via the Big Creek Trail. This 4-mile roundtrip hike will also take you past Midnight Hole, another popular spot in the park.
Mingus Mill and the Mountain Farm Museum are located near the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center.
Baxter Creek Trail
Baxter Creek Trail starts at the Big Creek campground and is a challenging, steep six-mile hike. The trail leads through beautiful and dense forest.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway extends for 469 miles in Virginia and North Carolina between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, and if you’re looking for a relaxing drive through the mountains this is an excellent choice. Along the way there are plenty of overlooks and vistas to capture memorable photos. There are also trails that you can access from the Blue Ridge Parkway if you want to get a different vantage point.
The Crabtree Falls & Meadows Recreation Area is located at mile 339.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll need to take about a 3-mile roundtrip hike to see Crabtree Falls, but this beautiful 70-foot cascade is worth the effort.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a 200-mile stretch of peninsulas and barrier islands off the coast. The area is a popular vacation destination, but it is also a good spot for photography. With plenty of beautiful beaches and several picturesque lighthouses, photographers can find plenty to like here. The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway is a great starting point, and we’ll also mention some specific points of interest below.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Near the northern end of the Outer Banks, the red brick Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a great subject for photography. Photograph the lighthouse itself, or climb the steps to the top for an awesome panoramic view.
Nags Head is home to beautiful beaches and sand dunes.
Jockey’s Ridge at Nags Head, home of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, is the largest sand dune on the east coast. This is a very popular spot for recreation, and a good place for photographs as well.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
South of Nags Head is Bodie Island and the Bodie Island Lighthouse. This 165-foot lighthouse is on the Roanoke Sound side of the island.
Cape Hatteras is a popular spot within the Outer Banks. It is home to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
At the southern end of the Outer Banks, Cape Lookout National Seashore includes three undeveloped islands. You’ll need to take a short ferry ride to reach it, but the seclusion and beauty is ideal for photographs. The black and white diamond shapes on the lighthouse give it a unique look.
Emerald Isle is on the Bogue Banks and is west of the southern end of Cape Lookout National Seashore. This is another popular location for vacations, and a great place to capture beach and coastal photos.
The Linville Gorge Wilderness area in western North Carolina is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The deep (2,000 feet) gorge around the Linville River provides challenging hiking opportunities and great scenery.
Also in western North Carolina, not far from the Linville Gorge Wilderness, is Grandfather Mountain. Photograph the mountain from a distance, or visit the mountain and photograph the view. The rugged terrain and rocky summit is ideal for photography. Grandfather Mountain State Park occupies part of the mountain.Grandfather Mountain is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Whitewater Falls, Jocassee Gorge
In southern North Carolina, the Jocassee Gorge is home to Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains with a total drop of more than 800 feet (400 feet each for the upper and lower falls). A short paved walkway leads to an excellent view of the upper falls. You can also take some steps to a lower viewpoint with an equally-amazing view.
DuPont State Forest
The DuPont State Forest in western North Carolina is home to several waterfalls and great hiking opportunities. While there are a number of recreational possibilities, photographs should consider taking the DuPont waterfalls hike. This scenic area was used for filming parts of The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games.
Yates Mill is a restored mill located near Raleigh, and is part of Yates Mill County Park.
Hickory Nut Gorge, Chimney Rock
Hickory Nut Gorge in southwestern North Carolina is a picturesque 14-mile-long canyon, with Chimey Rock providing a great view. Chimney Rock State Park offers hiking trails, amazing views, and the 400-foot Hickory Nut Falls. The falls can be seen from US Highway 64 outside of the park, or you can take the 1.5 mile roundtrip hike within the park to the base of the falls.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge lies in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia. These forested wetlands are perfect for photography, There are trails available for hiking, and on the Virginia side Lake Drummond and Lake Drummond Wildlife Drive are perfect for exploring.
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is an 8,000-acre estate and the Biltmore House is the largest privately-owned house in the United States (built in 1895). The beautiful architecture and gardens provide plenty of photographic opportunities.
Want to learn more about neighboring states? Please see:
- The Best Places to Photograph in Virginia
- The Best Places to Photograph in Tennessee
- The Best Places to Photograph in South Carolina